Wondering While Wandering: Tripping in LA? – PART ONE
I recently had the pleasure of attending the UCLA Tennis Tournament with SUNY Plattsburgh's student body president Angel Acosta (it's actually titled the Countrywide Tennis Tournament, but with Countrywide's recent notoriety allow me to frame it more favorably). Angel just happened to be completing an intensive summer film program at USC and we had planned to connect since our schedules were in sync for a California rendezvous. My first wondering/wandering moment relative to this trip occurred around the fact that Angel and I rendezvoused at all!
You see I recall once lunching at one of my favorite eating spots, Broadview Cafe (best soup in the North Country) near West Plattsburgh, New York with Ms. Marvelle Roberts, an exceptional female student who would go on to win the Chancellor's Award before she graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh. Marvelle had taken two classes from me and twice been a Teacher’s Assistant for me as well. She also watched my children for me and was very good friends with my wife Adrienne, who at that time still lived in the North Country. Not that any of this should actually matter, or should it? Well, should it?
Anyway, that day Marvelle and I were laughing and joking when all of a sudden a fairly high profile Plattsburgh woman—that I had only recently met—approached our table insisting I introduce Marvelle to her and even further insisting that we share with her how we knew one another! Neither one of us were prepared for this inquiry! It literally dismantled our sensibilities (yes, that means blew our minds). What would be the reasons someone would approach a couple and passionately question them about their relationship? I was dumbfounded. Marvelle actually said she had never been “so befuddled in all her life.” Marvelle could be a bit pretentious at times (relax Marvelous, I’m just kidding). The bottom line though is that Marvy and I may have been prejudged as being either lovers, or on our way to Loveland or at least Lover’s Lane. Why would that be?
Why did I share this story? Because I am blown away at how we prejudge. I can’t eat lunch with Marvy in a public restaurant and visibly enjoy doing it without being perceived as having overtones of romanticism! Granted she was/is an extraordinarily intelligent, witty, charming, and beautiful young woman. Perspectives on my attractiveness could be so relative what is the point of engaging them, except to say that obviously this woman must have surmised me attractive enough to get Marvelle’s attention. On the other hand, I can basically hang out with Angel, a very intelligent, witty, charming, handsome young man for days, all over Los Angeles, and not come under scrutiny for any relational improprieties relative to our age, or professional status (professor/mentor vs. student/protégé). Perhaps the problem lies so deep that elements of it can be ascertained in even my description of the two students. I described them exactly the same way until I offered an assessment of their physicality, labeling Marvelle beautiful and Angel handsome. Perhaps embedded within that distinction are contributing factors if not additional evidence as to how we are predisposed to unfair and socially unjust expectations of one another’s behavior. Is this true? Can you offer some other examples?
Then there is also another dimension to this scenario. Has anyone focused on the heterosexual privilege on display here? In a heterosexual society it is assumed that Angel and I are heterosexual because we both must project some stereotypical notion of masculinity that is adequate enough for us to not be labeled otherwise. Obviously there are measurable degrees to masculinity and femininity that aren’t quantified, but somehow qualified. I understand this but am lost at the same time. Can someone enlighten me as to what are those measurable degrees for both/either genders?
That wouldn’t be the only part of this that is intriguing. If that isn’t enough for you to consider, let’s take it a bit further. At the same tennis tournament I attended with Angel I also went with my daughter Autumn one day and my goddaughter Tamarah on another. Now, Autumn— who is a very intellectually mature little eight year old— is often said to resemble her father, and she is so young looking that most people would imagine, or dare I say, prejudge us as father and daughter, or possibly uncle and niece. Tamarah, my goddaughter, on the other hand while also being quite intellectually mature for her age, is more physically mature than the average young woman her age. Couple this with the fact that as a result of her being a burgeoning soccer phenomenon on the Southern California sports scene, this young woman has virtually no body fat. So, from a distance she could easily be construed as a mature woman. Well, on the day Tamarah and I attended the tournament there were multiple occasions that we encountered couples that I knew. Along with having had these box seats in my name since the early nineties, I also have quite a few friends active in Southern California Tennis circles. On one of the meetings I had with a couple (a husband and wife) it was very evident that one of the spouses slipped into prejudgment mode rather quickly. PAUSE HERE FOR A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: Guess which one you think it was, and how was it they were prejudging. If you do please share with all of us why you think it was the husband or wife (two other politically loaded terms).
IF YOU HAVE ALREADY GUESSED, then PROCEED (though hopefully you will share why you guessed the way you did).
Oh, also, I haven’t even gotten to what motivated me to write this two part blog posting. You will have to read part two to really get to the incident that Angel and I need your help to unpack and make sense of.